Cantonese cuisine was the first regional Chinese food to come to America. Over the years, it has developed a reputation of being bland or overly sweet. Hakkasan, on Beverly Drive, has reintroduced Cantonese dining with an intriguing club-like atmosphere and big, bold flavors.
The first thing diners will notice when walking into the restaurant is the air perfumed with incense. A beautiful stonewall entrance leads to dimly blue-lit dining rooms. Techno music is pulsating, and low hanging lights illuminate the tables.
The original Hakkasan restaurant was founded in London in 2001. Since then, Hakkasan has become a distinguished global restaurant with locations in Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Shanghai, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills.
We sat near the lounge area created by general manager Jordan Ogron, who came to Hakkasan after working at Rivera, Fig & Olive, Short Order and Bestia. He supervised interior improvements and worked closely with the chefs to create new seafood dishes exclusively served in Hakkasan’s Beverly Hills restaurant.
Hakkasan’s international executive chef Ho Chee Boon, a Michelin-starred chef with more than 24 years of experience, was at the restaurant the night we dined. The chef’s Cantonese menu offers contemporary and exotic dishes that are steamed and wok-fried.
We ordered innovative cocktails including a popular Buddha’s Palm made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Velvet Falernum, yuzu marmalade and juice, white balsamic vinegar, black grapes and mint. I chose a frothy strawberry-ginger bellini made with Prosecco and served in a glass that was shorter and narrower than a typical champagne flute. Other guests at our table ordered drinks like Eastern Elixir, Dark & Stormy and smoky Negroni, made with Rusty Blade aged gin, Antica Formula vermouth, Campari and Grand Marnier. A lid on the glass is lifted at the table, releasing a dramatic smoky vapor that rises from an extra large ice cube.
Our server, Beau, was charming and professional in delivering our multi-course dinner. The first course was pan-seared mango scallops, with four scallops served in a fresh mango sauce with Asian pear and Thai sweet chili sauce. It’s garnished with purple radish, and was more of a sweet than spicy dish.
It was suggested that I try the crispy duck salad, one of the most popular dishes on the menu, stacked high with crispy duck meat, bright red pomegranate seeds, flash fried pine nuts, lettuce and shallots — a bowl of crunchy, chewy and silky delectable delights. The dish is addictively good.
Next, the royal lobster soup arrived with lobster meat still in its flavorful shell, and lots of long and thin smoked enoki mushrooms. The chef splashes Bourbon on the soup to round out the flavors.
I really enjoyed the truffle lupin wrap, made with a gluten free flour high in protein and rich in dietary fiber and minerals. The dish was wrapped with legumes, carrots and Japanese yams and drizzled with black housemade hoisin sauce. Black truffle shavings on top enhance the savoriness.
Chef Ho’s team also makes stir fried squid served with a mix of cloud ear fungus, onion, carrots, scallion, bird’s-eye chilies and cashew nuts. The pleasing dish appealed to everyone at the table.
The braised royal abalone looked like a large mushroom cap with white lace mushrooms.
Abalone is the escargot of the sea, and the smooth delicacy paired well with snow ear and cloud ear mushrooms, baby bok choy and royal supreme stock made with chicken, duck, dried scallop, ginger, carrot and chicken feet.
The most dramatic dishes in appearance were stir-fried Brazilian lobster with Chinese chive sauce, and wok-fried lamb chop with preserved bean curd and ginger. The Mongolian-style beef tenderloin was very tender and flavorful. The dish, was served in a lovely butter-colored custard basket. The beef is wok-fried with a sweet sauce, milk, maitake mushrooms and crispy ginger with an edible flower.
We also enjoyed abalone fried rice cooked in abalone stock with fresh abalone, chopped prawns and dried scallops. We finished with tapioca-style banana pearl pudding.
DJ Aaron Colbert offers entertainment on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings starting at 7 p.m. Rotating DJs spin music every Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
Hours are from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; the bar and lounge is open from 5:30 p.m. to closing. The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday. $$$ 233 N. Beverly Dr. (310)888-8661.